The Opinion Cast: The Significance of Mountain Lion

I thought it would be fun to capture Tim and my conversation at the office today around Mountain Lion and our thoughts on what it means for Apple, computing, and even some comparison’s with Apple’s philosophy and that of Windows 8. Often he and I have these chats to get caught up and synchronize our thoughts and I thought I would share this one with our readers.

I hope you enjoy and any and all feedback and / or dialogue is of course welcome.

You can also subscribe to our opinion cast in iTunes here.

OS X Mountain Lion: My Favorite New Features

Tim wrote earlier this week about his conviction that when it comes to post PC platforms Apple will keep OS X and iOS separate rather than merge the two as many expect. What Apple has done with OS X Mountain Lion proves that a desktop class OS can live in harmony with a pure mobile OS and provide a seamless experience across them all.

After using OS X Mountain Lion for a little while now, I have to say that the full experience of seamless integration between all my Macs and iOS devices is quite profound. The funny thing is upon hearing of OS X Mountain Lion’s new features I fully expected it would be, however, it was even more pleasant when I finally got to integrate it into my personal computing ecosystem.

Apple took advantage of their iCloud infrastructure, and tightly integrated it into this new OS release. Apple has continually emphasized a works better together philosophy with their products and iCloud has been a key puzzle piece in this philosophy. Apple executives have referred to iCloud as a strategy for the next decade, but it is most likely the strategy for much longer. iCloud is the glue that ties all of your Apple products together and never is that more clear than with OS X Mountain Lion.

In this analysts opinion, OS X Mountain Lion brings Apple customers one step closer to a seamless and more importantly continuous personal computing experience. Apple has been heading in this direction for a while with things like Photo Stream, iBooks, and others that let you instantly keep experiences in sync. But OS X Mountain Lion takes us even further with things like documents in the cloud, iCloud Tabs, Game Center, and more.

Continuous computing will be a key driver for Apple’s ecosystem going forward. As consumers realize that not only does all you key data, documents, personal settings and more stay synced in real time across all your Apple products but that you can switch from one device to another and feel like you can always pick up where you left off.

Let me know share my experience with a few features that I found particularly useful.

Safari and iCloud Tabs

The updated Safari for OS X Mountain Lion is easily one of my favorites. Primarily because I use Safari as a large part of my daily computing time. The new sharing feature is particularly handy and I used this quite a bit more than I thought. I like to share quite a bit of what I find on the Internet to Facebook and Twitter and being able to share right from Safari without having to jump to a different application or website was extremely useful.

But the biggest new feature that I truly appreciate is iCloud Tabs. I have a Mac and an iPad and I use them both in different ways. Within my personal work style I use them both in conjunction together as a solution rather than as separate products. Because of that I can’t tell you how many times a day I come across a website on the Mac and then want to read that website on my iPad or vice versa. A common use case where this happens is when I am using my Mac and looking up recipes. Once I find the recipe I want I used to have to email it to myself so I can then pick it up on my iPad, which is the tool I use in the kitchen quite often. Now with iCloud Tabs any open tabs in Safari, whether that is on the iPad, iPhone, or Mac is accessible to me. It seems small, but for me it is extremely useful and appreciated.


To be honest I have wanted notifications on my Mac for quite a while longer than I wanted notifications for iOS. What is really nice is that you can customize which applications notify you and which ones don’t. For me the most important notifications are email and this one feature has served me greatly.

In my day to day I get well over 100 emails and somedays twice that much. I could literally sit all day and just answer email and it would keep me busy. Obviously because of that I have to prioritize. Pre Notifications in iOS, when I heard an email come in I would click on mail and see who its from then determine if I needed to respond immediately or later. This routine can be quite disrupting to ones work flow. Enter Notifications for email and now as I am working I quickly see who an email is from and without ever having to change applications and quickly read said e-mail, I can choose to respond or keep doing what I was doing.

Since I also text message with work colleagues, friends, and family, quite often having iMessage notify me of a new message was equally pleasant. This kept me from having to disrupt my work flow to check iMessage or my iPhone to see who it was from. Notifications is just one more way that Apple is extending features we know and love on iOS and bringing them to the desktop in a relevant way.

Air Play Mirroring

Air Play support on iOS and even in iTunes on the Mac has been one of those features that I use way more than I expected to. So it was no surprise to me that when Apple brought it to the OS X Mountain Lion that it was on the features I found most valuable. This is key for reasons in my professional life and my personal life.

In my professional life I give a lot of presentations and work collaboratively with teams of executives and product groups. More often than not in these meetings most of the content we are working off resides on my Mac. With Air Play Mirroring we don’t need to huddle around my computer or fiddle with chords and cables and projector issues with inputs or resolution scaling. Now we can simply broadcast the whole of OS X and all the content on it to the large screen or projector. Because of this one features I expect many more Apple TVs in conference rooms.

In my personal life, this is the feature I have been waiting for. Primarily because I watch a lot of video on my Mac. This happens to be because currently many sites I frequent still use Adobe’s flash player– especially the network TV sites. I stream a lot of TV shows from network sites or the web directly and many of them are still on Flash. Unfortunately many of these sites still hold prime TV content from their apps or Hulu + so it is hard to get access to all their content from the apps they release on iOS. Often times I would literally connect my Mac to my TV just so I could watch some shows on my TV. That is why this was one area where Air Play mirroring in OS X Mountain Lion came in for me big time.

I can honestly say that thanks to Apple TV and Air Play Mirroring my living room will never be the same.

Lastly I want to touch briefly on Game Center. This is a feature that I believe may be incredibly disruptive. Now that Game Center games and experiences are unified across all of Apple’s products, the Apple ecosystem has become a fully cross platform gaming environment. I was able to play games with my kids from my Mac while they were on their iPod touches or other iOS devices. Apple is a sleeper in the gaming category and I believe they will soon be a major player from a gaming platform standpoint. And add what I pointed out about Air Play and all of a sudden Apple has a game platform for the big screen as well.

The overall key takeaway for me is what I said a while back in a column about Apple’s promise to their customers. Which is that when you invest in the Apple ecosystem, Apple promises to keep making your experiences better.

And they did just that with their latest release of OS X Mountain Lion.

Does Apple Love PCs More Than Microsoft?

Does Apple, the post-PC company, have more faith in the future of PCs, than Microsoft?

Photo of Mac Book Pro
Mac Book Pro 15 with Retina Display

The idea may seem a stretch, seeing how Apple’s business is now dominated by iPhones and iPads, but it may well be true. Microsoft very much depends on the PC for its future, but it doesn’t seem to be serving its PC users well

Much of the analysis of Apple’s Worldwide  Developer Conference announcements has focused on the impact on Google. Dumping Google Maps from the iPhone and enhancing Siri search definitely pose some challenges for the search giant. But the larger near term impact may well be on Microsoft, as it struggles to hang onto its PC business while gaining traction in the elusive phone and tablet markets. Microsoft was having a hard enough time catching up with where Apple has been, but Apple, of course, is not standing still.

It’s significant that the new features of iOS 6.0 and OS X Mountain Lion, while impressive, are not earth-shaking. In the past five years, Apple has built a comprehensive infrastructure that ties all of its products together. This effort, while still evolving, has achieved considerable maturity, which is why we should expect that changes will be incremental. The lack of new features that knock your socks off may disappoint ardent fans and the markets, but it’s really a sign of how far Apple has come.

Keeping things separate. Microsoft maintains its dominance of the enterprise back office, but is struggling everywhere else against an upstart it though it had vanquished nearly 20 years ago. In the consumer space, it is betting pretty much everything on on Windows 8, I’ve made no secret of my belief that Microsoft’s decision to go with a common software platform for traditional PCs and tablets is a mistake. As Ryan Block of GDGT tweeted, there are a lot of former PC tasks now routinely handled by tablets, but “for the tasks that remain, computers are as important than ever. The user base isn’t contracting so much as the use cases are clarifying.”

Apple raised the stakes at WWDC as it revealed the refined features of Mountain Lion and iOS 6.0. Where Microsoft is merging the desktop with the tablet, Apple is continuing to converge the two. The difference is critical and, I believe, all in Apple’s favor. Apple is adding iOS-like features to OS X when they make sense. So Mountain Lion gets reminders, notifications, and messages. But it retains its distinctive look and feel and an environment that is optimized for the sorts of complicated tasks for which users will continue to rely on traditional PC hardware. In particular, the multi-windowed Mac desktop is retained along with the traditional icons, menus, and pointers. And while Apple has made it possible to manipulate the user interface through touchpad gestures, it shows no inclination to move to touch screens on either iMacs or MacBooks.

Microsoft, by contrast, is forcing Windows 8 users to deal with a Metro UI that seems to be optimized for tablets and touch screens. Metro apps are designed to run full screen, with some very limited screen sharing possible on larger displays. Metro actually looks like a very nice tablet UI, superior in some ways to both iOS and Android. But it find the Consumer Preview painful on a laptop. Even if you spend most of your time working in traditional Desktop apps, which continue to work in multiple windows as always, you are forced to put up with a jarring switch to Metro for some critical tasks. Metro apps feel like they waste an awful lot of space on a 13″ laptop and  are truly ridiculous on a 27″ desktop display. (Microsoft’s developers used to be criticized, only half in jest, for thinking that everyone worked, like them, with dual 30″ monitors. Now they seem to think that everyone works on a 10″ tablet.) I suspect that most serious PC users are going to want to stick with Windows 7 for as long as they can; it will be interesting to see if Microsoft will allow a downgrade option on new consumer systems.

Microsoft has made some progress integrating Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox and Windows 8 will push the process along. But again, Microsoft has not yet caught up to Apple even as the competition takes the next leap ahead. iCloud still has a ways to go and iTunes is a hairball, but you can  wake me when Windows matches the magic of PhotoStream.

Then there’s hardware. Spurred mainly by Intel, Microsoft’s OEM hardware partners are finally beginning to catch up with the notebook revolution set off by the Mac Book Air. But Apple, of course, is not going to sit still. The 15″ Retina Display MacBook Pro (a product that desperately needs a better name) is not likely to be a huge seller. Its starting price of $2,199 is two to three times that of a typical Windows notebook and it tops out at a staggering $3,700. But it sets a new standard an definitely shows the direction laptops will be taking.

In a typical Apple move, it dispenses with an optical drive, long thought to be an essential in a 15″ professional notebook. It is a third of an inch thinner an 1.3 pounds lighter than Hewlett-Packard’s Envy 15. Its most important feature is a 2,880×1,800 pixel display; Windows competitors top out at 1,920×1,080, less than half the pixel density. And make no mistake about it: Apple will be pushing Retina displays throughout the MacBook line. They are expensive, but they justify charging prices that generate fat margins and let Apple capture a vastly disproportionate share of PC profits. And, have been proven with the new iPad, they produce a far superior user experience simply by making everything more legible. In the year or so since Intel introduced the Ultrabook concept, Windows machines are arguably losing ground to the company that supposedly wants to kill the PC.

Microsoft was caught seriously off-guard by the iPad and was right to shift massive resources into tablets when it became clear that the post-PC phenomenon was real. But PCs remain a very important part of the ecosystem, and right now, it’s not clear that Microsoft cares as much about them as Apple does.

Afterthought:  If this report from VR-zone is correct and Microsoft plans to charge manufacturers $85 or so for each copy of the tablet version of Windows, it is going to be almost impossible for these devices to come to market at a competitive price. I hope it is wrong, because if true–and Microsoft has not responded to the report–it will leave Microsoft with an OS optimized for tablets no one will want


The Next Big Thing: Apple WWDC

It’s no surprise to see Apple race on, barely missing a beat since Steve’s passing – leading global innovation as it has this new millennium.

In just a few hours the next Apple WWDC (WorldWide Developers Conference) will take place. A stage that has announced true global game changers, like the iPhone and the iPad.

In the end, right now it’s still about the App store.  With 600,000 downloadable games, magazines and productivity tools, Apple is the application leader.  But the others are not far behind. As quoted in Bloomberg earlier today, “The success of Apple’s App Store has helped create an economy for downloading mobile applications that will reach $58 billion in sales in 2014.”

Surely, Apple will continue App dominance – and its track record of suspense and big announcements at WWDC. Will we see the next iPhone? News on OS X Mountain Lion? A new social platform? The next “Big Thing” that none of us have even contemplated yet?  It’s hard not to wonder where Apple goes from here, without Steve Jobs at the helm… but we’ll find out in just a few short hours.

This is a question I ask over and over in my upcoming eBook on Apple, The Magic and Moxie of Apple – An Insider’s View.

“… So where does Apple – a company that started out as two guys making and selling circuit boards out of their garage, which transformed into one of the biggest international technology companies in the world – go from here? Following the loss of Steve Jobs, that question seems challenging to answer. As we know all too well, Apple has seen itself rise and fall from grace before and reinvent itself more than once, and the company is counting on the fact that it’s cemented its place at the top so profoundly that nothing will stop it from continuing to grow. Continually releasing new products (and upgrading the old) may do this, but fundamentally, what direction does it take next? The iPhone, iPad, and iPod have already seen several generations of upgrades. What groundbreaking innovations will propel Apple in the same way that the iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air and iPad did? The answer to that question isn’t what new product will they come out with, but rather who will be dream it up without Steve? … ”


Like many of you, I’m eagerly awaiting iOS 6 and Mountain Lion – which brings some of the most popular features found on other Apple products to the Mac, such as GameCenter, notes, etc. A personal favorite is that Mountain Lion will send messages to anyone on an Apple product – so you’ll be able to begin a message on your Mac and pick it back up on your iPhone or iPad later on. We’ll see today what else Apple has in store for us – the world of believers, creators and brand advocates.

And although the race continues without Steve Jobs to lead the pack – only his company to carry on the dream – it will not be easy to watch WWDC without him taking the stage.

Kelli Richards, President and CEO
The All Access Group, LLC
PS: If you’d like to pre-order a copy of my book, The Magic and Moxie of Apple – An Insider’s View,” please go to


Mountain Lion’s Gatekeeper Is Not a Slippery Slope

Apple’s announcement of Gatekeeper, an anti-malware component of the new version of OS X, has set off the predictable horrified reactions among tech bloggers. Many are warning that this is a step in Apple’s plot to turn the Mac into an iPhone-like walled garden. But the reactions seem to be made of up equal parts misinformation and paranoia.

Gatekeeper offers Mac users three options. At its most stringent, it will install only software downloaded from the Mac App Store. A middle setting allows downloads from anywhere, but will warn users against installing them unless the code has been signed by a registered Mac developer. The third option is essentially the pre-Mountain Lion status quo: Anything is allowed.

Much of the criticism focuses on the dialog generated by unsigned code when using the middle option. It warns that the code “has not been signed by a recognized developer.  You should move it to the trash.” At Gizmodo, Casey Chan writes: “But Gatekeeper could also be interpreted as Apple heavily discouraging less savvy users from installing non-Mac App Store apps entirely. It’s one step away from turning the current app freedom on the Mac into the app dictatorship of iOS.

At BoingBoing,  Rob Bechizza opines:

“At this point, the thing that unnerves me is not the prospect of Gatekeeper as a crude tool to herd OS X developers into a walled garden and crush freedom. It’s the fact that code-controlling technologies tend to have unintended consequences that harm, rather than guarantee, the quality of user experiences.

“The prospect of Apple becoming a desktop control freak, going full Sony on its own community to stop it using software the way it has for thirty years? Fun, but let’s wait until it actually happens.

“The truth is that Macs don’t currently suffer much from malicious software, and DRM-esque lockouts are always circumvented. So what’s the point of a DRM-esque system for malware prevention? A more pleasingly cynical answer is that it’s a marketing move, aimed as much at analyst-fed Mac malware hysterics in the tech press as it is at real threats. For everyday users, Gatekeeper’s more likely to echo the good old days of Vista’s “Cancel or Allow” than to save them from themselves.”

This is wrong on several levels. First, malware is a very real problem. It may not be much of one on Macs today, but the  increasingly murky swamp that is the Android app market should serve as a warning. Second, raising the issue of digital rights management is a complete red herring. Gatekeeper has nothing to do with DRM, whose purpose is to restrict unauthorized copying of content or to limit its use to specific devices. He is guilty of the very fear-mongering he accuses Apple of.

Give Apple a little credit for understanding  the difference between a Mac and an iOS device. At the introduction of the iPad, Steve Jobs compared the iPads to cars and Macs to trucks. His point was that a car is all most people need, but people who build stuff need trucks. As analogies go, this isn’t a bad one. And the people who need Macs need the freedom to choose their own software.

Another important point that seems to be getting lost: Developer approval, unlike inclusion in the App Store, does not imply that Apple has looked at the software itself. Anyone can become a registered  Apple developer by paying $99 a year and getting code approved for Gatekeeper’s middle option requires only that developers digitally sign their apps. This allows an app to be traced back to its author and lets Apple de-register developers who distribute bad code. Can this be abused? Of course. But it is on the whole a very good thing to add accountability to app distribution.

Finally, the “walled garden” charge is a bit silly because of how easy Apple makes it to change Gatekeeper settings. It’s just a click on the Security & Privacy system preference. This may sound  elitist but I am going to say it anyway. As I tweeted yesterday, anyone who cannot figure out how to change the setting probably needs the greatest protection. Anyone who doesn’t know enough about their Mac to change a simple preference needs someone to curate their software choices.


Don’t Miss OS X Mountain Lion’s Potential in China

Many in the media who got an early preview of Apple’s new Mac OS Mountain Lion are notably excited about a range of features. I point out a few of them in my article sharing my experience with the developer preview. Given that much of the mainstream media, or at least the sites that get the most publicity, are not based in China it will be somewhat easy to not focus on the China specific features built into Mac OS X Mountain Lion. China is a significant growth area for Apple and the improvements made for China should not be missed. Here are some of those features.

Late last year I saw a survey from Morgan Stanley that looked specifically at the PC market in China. Now by PC they mean a clamshell notebook or desktop form factor. Based on Morgan Stanley’s survey of Chinese consumers, here are the data points that stood out to me.

— Consumers in tier 1-3 cities and enterprises are key to China’s PC growth. 45% of tier 1-3 residents plan to buy a PC in the next three years vs. 36% in tier 4-6 cities. Just over half of PC owners live in tier 1-3 cities and the rest in tier 4-6. Large enterprises plan to grow 2011 IT budgets by 10%, outpacing SMBs at 2%, and spend 37% of their budgets on hardware.

— Consumer PC purchasing behavior in China is similar to developed markets in several ways. Our survey suggests Chinese consumers (9% of global units) spent $700 on their current PC, same as the US. Encouragingly, consumers in China plan to spend 6% more on their next PC and half of them plan to upgrade to a new PC in the next two years (four-year cycle).

— Our survey suggests one in five consumers want to purchase a Mac as their next PC, four times Apple’s 5% share today. However, Apple’s share gains in the near term are likely limited to the 7% of respondents who are willing to pay over $1,100 for a PC. In the long-term, as Chinese consumers become more affluent, we believe Apple could see further share gains as it is the most desirable brand, according to survey respondents.

— Apple stands out as the strongest consumer PC brand, but it may take time to monetize its growth potentials. Chinese consumers rate Apple as the most desirable PC brand well before

When you look at that data, it becomes clear that Apple has been well positioned to succeed in China. When you look at the improvements Apple made specifically for Chinese customers with OS X Mountain Lion, you can argue that the case for the Mac in China is stronger than ever.

The data from the Morgan Stanley survey points out the need for affordability with Mac hardware to come down and that is true as still only a small amount of Chinese consumers are what should be considered “affluent.” So price will be somewhat of an issue in that region but you have to also consider a brand and aspirational purchases which sometimes trump affordability or cheap. Chinese customers are very brand centric and prefer items with high brand appeal. For that I would contend that if Chinese customers have to save a few more months to get a Mac, I am willing to bet a large percentage will.

Also, iPad and iPhone are hot in that region–and cost less than the Mac. This again will make the case for the Apple ecosystem in China. All of Apple’s products help sell the others. Once you get one you most likely want them all, or at least more. iCloud’s tight integration with OS X Mountain Lion will make the ecosystem even that much stronger in every region.

Lastly, it is important to point out is that all of these specific features for the Chinese market will increasingly become a key differentiator for the Mac in that market. Compared to other “PCs” in that region these new OS X features and more will make the Mac highly differentiated in China. This also sends two messages. The first that Apple is very serious and committed to China. The second is that Apple is telling Chinese customers that they are interested in innovating uniquely for them.

Mountain Lion Gets Serious About OS X App Security

Apple’s attitude towards OS X security has always been a bit equivocal. On a technical level, it has done a good job. OS X out of the box is reasonably secure and Apple keeps it that way with regular, usually monthly, updates.

Mountain LionBut Apple’s marketers have long seen the Mac’s perceived security edge over Windows as a competitive advantage, which leads them to disparage the idea that Mac owners need to much to protect their systems. This worked for a long time mostly because Windows presented the bad guys with so much greater a target of opportunity that few attacks targeted Macs. (In fact, the inherent security of OS X and windows have been pretty much even since the launch of Windows Vista.)

But the surge in the popularity of Apple products makes Macs a much more tempting target and with Max OAS X Mountain Lion, Apple is moving to get ahead of the problem. One of the new features in the OS is Gatekeeper, an optional whitelisting approach that should help keep the unwary from loading bad applications onto their Macs. Apps (and their cousins, browser plug-ins) rather than the operating system itself have become the leading vector of attacks since the quality of app code varies widely and apps are generally not subject to the same sort of security scrutiny that the OS goes through.

Related content: My Experience With The OS X Mountain Lion Developer Preview

With iOS, Apple takes a draconian approach to  whitelisting. The only way to load an app onto an  non-jailbroken iPhone or iPad is to download it from the iTunes App Store, which only distributes code that has been vetted by Apple. There had been rumblings that a similar approach might be taken with the Mac and even the hint of such a move suggested that Apple would face a firestorm from the Mac faithful if it imposed such severe restrictions.  So in Mountain Lion, it is taking a more nuanced approach.

Gatekeeper dialog box

Gatekeeper offers users three levels of security of app downloads. At its strictest level, it will allow only apps downloaded from the Mac App Store to be installed. This adds two kinds of protection. First, apps most be approved by Apple to get into the store. Second, new developer rules for the App Store sharply restrict  the amount of damage an app can do, although potentially at a considerable loss of functionality. Starting March 1, all apps submitted to the App Store must run in a “sandbox,” a restriction similar to that imposed on iOS developers, that limits a program’s access to system resources.

That will be too much security for many Mac users, since it would cripple many applications that depend on extensive communication with other apps–often the case in programs used for content creation or software development.  So Mountain Lion offers a more expansive option that allows installation of App Store downloads plus any app signed with a valid Apple developer ID. Before installation, the signature is checked against an Apple database to make sure the app has not been identified as malware, that the developer is not known to have distributed malware, and that the code has not been tampered with.

If you attempt to install code that lacks a valid signature, Mountain Lion will throw up a dialog box warning you. If you choose to install it anyway,  you can control-click the app or its installer and use the context menu to override Gatekeeper.

Finally, for those who prefer to live dangerous, and “Anywhere” setting allows promiscuous downloads without any warnings (an administrative password is till required for installation.)

I think Apple has hit this one right. There has been a lot of doomsaying on blogs that Apple was going to take the same locked-down approach to Mac apps that it does to iOS. But Gatekeeper’s tiered system shows that Apple understands there is a big difference between Mac (and Mac users) and iOS. I think the great majority of users will go for the middle option (isn’t that always the case when you are given three choices) since it provides the best tradeoff between security and functionality. On the whole, this is a big step forward by Apple that Microsoft ought to give a serious look at for Windows 8.



My Experience With The OS X Mountain Lion Developer Preview

Apple is on pace to bring a new OS X release on an annual cadence. They released today the first bit of information as a developer preview for their latest OS X release called Mountain Lion.

The big story around Mountain Lion is iCloud. Apple, with Mountain Lion, has taken another step in tightly integrating iCloud into OS X the same way iCloud is tightly integrated into iOS 5. This is key because when OS X Lion came out last year iCloud was not yet released. iCloud is becoming the glue which ties all your Apple products together and with Mountain Lion that glue is coming to OS X.

The other key takeaway beyond iCloud is that OS X Mountain Lion brings many of the primary apps and iOS 5 experiences to the Mac platform. Things like Notifications, Notes, Reminders, iMessages, Game Center, Twitter and other quick share features, along with many more. Although this is an early developer preview, I am guessing there are a few surprises with Mountain Lion up Apple’s sleeve.

I have had the privilege of using an early beta release of the developer preview of Mountain Lion for a little while now and I want to share my experience with this latest release. Keeping in mind the software is still in beta yet it is a VERY solid Beta.

There are three key experiences I want to share along with one final point that should not be missed about OS X Mountain Lion and China.

I do a lot of texting. Other than email, texting is one of my primary forms of communications with a range of people in both my work and personal life. Having iMessage on my Mac has been a profound experience.

Perhaps this is because it feels as if it is the union of two things near and dear to me, Instant messaging and texting. From about 1998 to 2004 I used AOL Instant Messenger heavily. iMessage is like the union of texting and AIM and it is bliss for those deeply committed to the Apple ecosystem.

When someone texts me, the ability to quickly respond without having to pick up my iPhone or iPad is terrific. Primarily because when I am on my Mac I am generally writing a column or an in-depth analysis for a client. Responding to a message with iMessage on the Mac allows me to quickly respond and get back to what I was working on without fundamentally disrupting my work flow. This is probably the case because I am a part of the multi-tasking ADD generation and this was something I used to do with AIM as a part of my work flow. Also having all my message threads in sync across my Mac, iPhone, and iPad is tremendous as well. Basically I can pick up whatever device is most convenient at the moment to respond with and my conversation threads are always in sync.

iMessages on the Mac is something I have wanted since I started using it on the iPhone. I am glad Apple agreed.

Next up is how useful notifications on OS X truly is. Notifications were one of the features I was most excited about with iOS 5. Mostly because notifications are one of my favorite features with Android, but I don’t use an Android device as my primary phone for a variety of reasons related to personal preference. So this feature with iOS 5 was great for me as an Apple customer. Apple bringing notifications to OS X is equally exciting.

On this point, it is important to note that I have set my applications dock to hide and not stay visible all the time. Therefore having a “badge” show up on the application in the dock is not terribly useful for me. With that established, you can see why having a better notification for important things like email has always been a desire for me. In fact I have purchased at least three different third-party plug-ins for Mac Mail in order to notify me of email and many of them were more hassle than valuable.

While writing a column, analysis, creating a presentation, etc, being notified of new email from key contacts, as simple as it sounds, has been a great experience–and it works even while in full screen app mode.

AirPlay mirroring in iOS 5 was more valuable of a feature to me than I originally thought it would be–especially with the iPad. It turns out that I use AirPlay Mirroring from my iPad to my TV quite a bit. Whether it is playing a YouTube video, sharing photos from my iPad, playing a game, or sharing a website, I love moving content from my iPad to my TV. I wrote a column about that experience on how my iPad is taking over my TV.

Bringing this feature to the Mac opens up many new possibilities. For example, streaming TV shows from the web. Not all TV shows are available through things like Hulu+ or other network apps. However, nearly all network shows are available as a catch up TV solution through the web browser on a notebook or desktop. AirPlay Mirroring in OS X Mountain Lion will bring the full web in all its glory to your TV wirelessly. And in HD since OS X Mountain Lion AirPlay mirroring supports streaming 720p HD as well as resolution matching of your display to the TV.

Apple products are also invading the enterprise and corporate accounts in large numbers and this includes Mac products as well. I will bet that AirPlay Mirroring within OS X Mountain Lion is going to be a very handy feature for many conference rooms and work place settings.

Even creating Mac OS X apps that work in conjunction with your TV to give you a “two-screen” experience, similar to apps that do this on iOS, is exciting un-explored territory.

Don’t Miss Mountain Lions Impact to China

Lastly, I want to point out something that I think is very important. Because Apple so tightly controls not only the hardware they sell around the world but also the software, they are able to make very specific regional solutions as a part of their operating system. They have done just that by tightly integrating some incredibly useful features for the Chinese market.

A few key features for China:

  • Better suggestions: As you type, Mountain Lion offers more up-to-date and relevant candidates for words and phrases.
  • English and Chinese: You can now type English words in a Pinyin sentence without switching keyboards.
  • Better handwriting: Mountain Lion more than doubles the number of Chinese characters supported in handwriting recognition.
  • Autocorrection: If you enter Pinyin incorrectly, Mountain Lion suggests a likely candidate for the word you meant to type.
  • Fuzzy Pinyin: Mountain Lion adds support for Fuzzy Pinyin, which makes text input easier for users who type Pinyin with regional pronunciations.

Also full support for many popular services in China like Baidu search in Safari, Sina weibo, Youku, Tudou, is integrated right into Mountain Lion.

What is important to point out is that all of these specific features for the Chinese market will increasingly become a key differentiator for the Mac in that market. This also sends two messages. The first that Apple is very serious and committed to China. The second is that Apple is telling Chinese customers that they are interested in innovating uniquely for them.

Related: Don’t Miss OS X Mountain Lion’s Potential in China

Mountain Lion proves that Apple is still innovating specifically for the Mac. Yes the growth in iPhone, iPad and iOS is astonishing but the Mac remains an important part of the Apple ecosystem.

From what I have seen with the Mountain Lion developer preview, I see a myriad of things for Mac app developers to be excited about and many features consumers will find valuable.